“The office is dead – long live the office”

Posted by , 3 months ago

With the advancements in technology, the digital workplace can bring many advantages to businesses and employees such as inclusion, co-working and diversity. However, the positives and negatives may differ depending on the person.

Digital Workplace

With the ever-growing developments of technology, the workplace has extended dramatically, and we are pushed into this notion that we can and will be working anywhere. This is one of the main factors for the change in office environments, but we are forgetting about some of the fundamental aspects that construct the office. What impact does this have on your employees, your business culture and the places you work?

Designing a trendy office doesn’t make it a living office. Have you ever been to a house that you walked into and thought ‘wow, this is beautiful!’ but you would not want to live there? You could design the most beautiful office; throw in tonnes of creativity, splashes of colour and brand-new top of the range furniture; but the appearance of an office does not necessarily make it a functional one. Take Google for instance: How many designers and sales members have had clients say, ‘we’d like our office to be like Google, that’s what we want!’, hands up, we’ve all had that! But, have you ever asked them why? Was it because it looks amazing, fun and it is what everybody else wants?

But, is it what everybody wants?

The perfect office environment is not based solely on the décor – whilst the colour, creativity and types of furniture does play a role – the main contributor is in fact the office culture.

Why do you go into the office?

Ask yourself the question, there is no right or wrong answer; your job role, personality, and needs all play a part in this. Do any of the following tick that box?

  • Collaborate
  • Face to face interaction
  • Convenient
  • Visibility
  • Social
  • Creative
  • Home/work separation
  • Air Con (essential this summer!)
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Get more done
  • Because you have to!

Are all those reasons positive factors all day every day? Some of these will be a positive factor for one person, yet a negative factor for another. Let’s delve deeper into some of these points.

Visibility

I recently attained a new job where I work solely from home. I sometimes go for a run on my lunchbreak but when I come back I find myself apologising if I missed a message from my boss. It is almost as if I start doubting and questioning myself: am I allowed to leave my home? Does it look like I am not doing my job? However, if you worked in an office that has a big canteen, a few TV’s and a pool table, you would not think twice about spending your lunch break completely away from your desk, the emails, away from ‘work’.

The future of office design is a long way from the traditional workplaces of the past.

Social

Ever sat in the office with headphones on but no music playing? We sometimes want to be in the middle of the noise but do not want to be disturbed. Some people are the social butterflies of the office world, they fly around communicating with everyone and therefore need to be around the constant energy. In comparison, some like to be quiet, it doesn’t make them boring or antisocial, they simply like to focus and work in their own little bubble. We also want to be physically seen within the office, to show we are in fact a great team player and are going above and beyond in our job roles.

In the future of office design, environment will be designed for collaboration.

Free Wi-Fi

Are the facilities better in the office than your home? I live in a village and the internet speed is terrible, it cuts out at the most inconvenient times and sometimes I just wish I could be in a physical office with decent Wi-Fi. However, what if the internet in your office is slow and then your desktop computer breaks, and the tech guys keep on telling you “just turn it off and on again!” I bet you could be halfway through that quote if you were on your laptop at home!

Connectivity is vital in the future of office design

Get more done

We all know that there are introverts and extroverts who thrive in completely different environments, but we also know there are certain jobs or times of the day when different people will need their quiet time or group working. Sometimes you may get more done by working from home, even if it’s just for the morning to make those all-important phone calls. On the other hand, maybe the hustle and bustle of the office is ‘white noise’ for you and you depend on the buzz to get you motivated.

Balancing personalities will be vital for the future of office design

Virtual Vs Physical

There are many different reasons why employees and employers may or may not want to work digitally but you could argue that we all need a bit of both. It’s about the culture of the business, giving your staff the choice to make their own decisions, whilst balancing alongside the managerial pyramid, and most importantly, trust.

“Leaders who create a strong sense of ‘us’ and a sense of belonging within their teams help staff to feel more positive about their work”
Dr. Niklas Steffens University of Queensland, Australia

In the future of office design, virtual office vs physical will be a key battle.

Download Infographic Virtual vs Physical PDF

Summary

When we say the office is dead, we don’t literally mean that nobody will ever go into an office ever again and there will be empty office blocks everywhere! We just mean the way we use offices now is dead. With the advancements in technology its becoming far easier to work virtually, everything is becoming much more fluid but there should be a balance. To have a living office, we must nurture it; it is a slow process. You can have a beautiful modern office but without the correct office culture, the décor is trivial. The culture must be cultivated by starting with the most basic aspects, then branch out and continue building until it is the best it can be…then you can sprinkle the colours and furniture to best equip your individual business needs.

So, the way that we use offices now is dead, not the building itself. The future of the offices is yet to be discovered. What will the new fluid ‘living’ offices be like?

Thank you to Herman Miller Insight Group for another great seminar.

Written by Kimberley Coppock– Senior Designer